One loud booming voice that has been largely MIA this election season is Keith Olbermann’s. The ex-MSNBC, Current TV, ESPN and Fox Sports broadcaster was one of the most opinionated, egotistical, bridge-burning and prodigiously talented commentators on cable television for years. But, alas, he’s been relegated to the sidelines this time around due to his own inability to get along well with network bigwigs. (Rumors of a return to MSNBC after his latest go-round with ESPN never materialized.)
However, we’re still able to get Keith’s biting commentary in fits and spurts, generally in the form of guest columns for newspapers and magazines. On Wednesday, we were treated to a typically irreverent and entertaining takedown of the media in the form of a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. Olbermann aimed his arrows high, pointing out the obvious — news networks have gone easy on Donald Trump — by noting the transparently capitalist reason — advertising dollars they get for being able to book Trump continuously for interviews and town halls.
It’s all about the ratings, son! Keith called out producers and executives for essentially promising Trump that he won’t have to deal with legitimately tough questioning, instead noting that the real estate mogul only faces superficial queries during most appearances, with the hosts generally staying away from the “existential” questions facing his campaign.
From the article:
Because now you can ask any question about Trump, Trumpism or anti-Trumpism except the existential ones, because the existential ones could lead him to stop calling in to your morning show and providing you with your highest-rated hour for free. You can’t go meta on the perfect storm that has thrust up this Howard Beale of presidential candidates. You can’t say, “Never mind the politics, what kind of man could boast on national television that he’d just raised $6 million for veterans’ groups, then deny he’d ever said 6, then when told his boast is on tape demand that you play it for him, then make it impossible for you to play it for him?”
If he is scheduled to do 20 Trump town halls for you between now and the election, thus saving you about a month’s worth of production costs for your average cable news show (a million or two, depending on how much you pay your meat puppet), you don’t examine what’s going on inside of a man who could first pretend to be his own media spokesman, then boast about his own sexual conquests in the third person, then admit the deception to a reporter, then again admit it on the legal record, then deny it on national television, then when pressed about it by The Washington Post simply hang up the phone.
With the most effective form of self-censorship in play — one not based on ideology nor on a silly harkening back to a neutral past that only briefly existed, but based purely on cash — who will stand up and point at the emperor standing in only a comb-over and ask where in the hell his clothes are?
And therein lies the extremely scary situation we find ourselves trapped in this election season. We can’t rely on cable and broadcast news to be informative and dedicate themselves to the truth because they are purely driven by profit. And they have gotten used to the higher ratings Trump’s candidacy has brought them this past year. They aren’t going to change there tactics now, not with even more attention being paid to the election.
Sure, now and then, we might see a fact-check creep in, or Trump get pressed on some random issue. But, for the most part, execs want to make sure the Trumpster is happy, and will continue to agree to appear on their networks. Therefore, hosts and reporters will be instructed not to go too far with him, and stay away from making him extremely uncomfortable. (It is also why you’ll see Trump NEVER appear on certain programs, a la The Rachel Maddow Show.)
Keith is a pain in the ass. He’s a narcissist. He doesn’t play well with others. But, the dude speaks truth to power, and we desperately need his voice back in the mainstream.